The draughtsmanship in the present work is particularly elegant and the application of wash is delicate, conveying the dappled light on the tree trunk, while the absence of any shading on the trousers of the hanging figure adds starkness to the strange scene. As Mahoney has remarked, the majority of Rosa’s surviving drawings of the 1630s and 40s are fragmentary sketches but the preoccupation during this period with pastoral scenes, figures in landscapes and especially with experimental drawings of trees is clear. Mahoney identifies three groups of such works, amongst which the most comparable in handling are a fine, large study of A group of trees, in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam,1 a study of A man lying on his back on a rock in the centre foreground of a wooded landscape, in the British Museum2 and An angel gestures towards a cross on the left while four armoured men look on in wonder, formerly in the Kurt Meissner collection, Zurich,3 which Mahoney speculates could possibly have been offered to a patron in order that he might select a composition to be worked up into a painting.
1. M. Mahoney, The Drawings of Salvator Rosa, New York and London 1977, vol. I, p. 270, cat. no. 21.4, reproduced vol. II
2. Ibid., pp. 281-282
3. Ibid., pp. 275-276
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